Fifteen New Zealand athletes have been named in the Athletics team for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, announced today at the AUT Millennium track by the New Zealand Olympic Committee.
The team is a strong mix of experience and young talent with two athletes, 1500m specialist Nick Willis and shot putter Valerie Adams preparing for their fifth and fourth Commonwealth Games respectively, while 11 of the athletes will be attending their first Commonwealth Games.
Two times Olympic gold medallist Adams, is aiming to re-write her own piece of history, targeting her fourth consecutive Commonwealth Games shot put gold medal and her fifth medal overall.
Willis, like Adams, has medalled at all his previous Commonwealth Games appearances. At 34, he shows no signs of slowing down and in 2016 won bronze at the Rio Olympics after setting a New Zealand record for 1500m the previous year. He also finished third at the 2016 Portland World Indoor Championships 1500m, and made the final of the 2017 World Championships off a very short build-up.
World shot put champion Tom Walsh will front for his second Commonwealth effort, having won silver four years ago in Glasgow. Walsh has shown incredible consistency in his competitions, only once falling below second place in his 14 outings in 2017. His world title has armed him with the confidence to upgrade his Commonwealth silver from four years ago.
Eliza McCartney who at 21, is already an Olympic medallist, is another of the stars in the team. In a 2017 interrupted by injury, she managed to increase her New Zealand and Oceania record to 4.82m, ranking her fourth in the world for the year. She still managed to place ninth in the 2017 London World Championships while limited by Achilles tendon issues.
Athletes representing New Zealand for the first time at a major international event include 400m hurdler Cameron French, pole vaulter Olivia McTaggart, 800m runner Brad Mathas, and pole vaulter Nick Southgate.
Seven of the fifteen athletes announced have won either Olympic, Commonwealth, World Championship or World University medals.
NZOC CEO Kereyn Smith extended her congratulations to the athletes.
“This is an extremely strong and exciting team and one which we have very high hopes for on the Gold Coast,” said Kereyn.
“There’s a fantastic mixture of athletes and disciplines within this group, ranging from the likes of seasoned campaigners Dame Valerie Adams and Nick Willis to Games debutants such as Cameron French and Brad Mathas. We’re also naming three pole vaulters which is a fantastic representation of the growth of this sport within New Zealand.”
“New Zealand has won a staggering 127 athletics medals at the Commonwealth Games and I look forward to these athletes adding to our proud athletics legacy on the Gold Coast.”
Athletics New Zealand Chief Executive Hamish Grey also added his congratulations to the athletes named in the team.
“We’re pleased to congratulate our athletes on selection for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. We’re proud of their achievements, which are recognition of their commitment and drive for excellence,” said Grey.
“Our team is an exciting mix of multi-medal winning Olympic and World Championship athletes and new emerging talent selected for their first Games, covering a broad spread of event disciplines from shot put to marathon.”
“We wish them all the very best on the Gold Coast,” Grey added.
The athletics team members named today join Para athlete Holly Robinson (javelin) who was selected for the Gold Coast team in late 2017.
Marshall Hall and Julia Ratcliffe are selected subject to each meeting performance standards during identified Athletics NZ competitions.
Dame Valerie Adams’ selection is also conditional in that she must compete at upcoming NZ National Championships.
Further athletics team selections are possible.
Athletics has a very rich Commonwealth Games history with the sport being the major attraction at every Games since John Savidan and Stan Lay won gold in 1930 at the first Games in Hamilton, Canada.
New Zealand has won 35 gold and a total of 127 medals in athletics at the Commonwealth Games. The best Games in terms of medals won were Auckland 1950 (20 medals), Perth 1962 (11) and Kingston 1966 (10).
Valerie Young (nee Sloper) is the most prolific with five gold and a total of seven medals from 1958 to 1974, while Les Mills tops the men with five medals including one gold from 1958 to 1970.
The naming of the athletics team today brings the New Zealand Team to 90.
Gold Coast 2018 Athletics Team
Valerie Adams (conditional) shot put Pakuranga Athletic Club
Alana Barber 20km race walk Race Walking Auckland
Camille Buscomb 10,000m Hamilton City Hawks Athletics
Cameron French 400m hurdles Hamilton City Hawks Athletics
Marshall Hall (conditional) discus Invercargill Athletic Club
Ben Langton Burnell javelin Palmerston North Athletic and Harrier Club
Eliza McCartney pole vault North Harbour Bays Athletics
Olivia McTaggart pole vault North Harbour Bays Athletics
Brad Mathas 800m Christchurch Old Boys
Angie Petty 800m University of Canterbury
Julia Ratcliffe (conditional) hammer Hamilton City Hawks Athletics
Quentin Rew 20km race walk Wellington Harrier Athletic Club
Nick Southgate pole vault North Harbour Bays Athletics
Tom Walsh shot put South Canterbury Athletic Club
Nick Willis 1500m Lower Hutt Athletic Club
Willis and Buscomb will also be entered in the 5000m events.
Biographies for the selected athletes can be found on the NZOC website.
Media release thanks to Athletics New Zealand